You’ve waited months to get your braces off and see your amazing new smile. But with your new smile comes an important choice: Permanent retainer vs. removable retainer? Each has their own pros and cons, so let’s discuss them to help you decide which one best fits your needs.

What is a Retainer?

You may have thought that once you get your braces off, your orthodontic treatment is over. While you likely won’t need to see the orthodontist as frequently anymore, it’s important to maintain all the changes that were made to your mouth. That’s where retainers come in.

Without a retainer, especially during the first several months, your teeth can quickly begin to shift back out of proper alignment. A retainer is a simple orthodontic device that is custom fit to your teeth and helps to prevent this from happening. There are two general types of retainers, so let’s examine the pros and cons of a permanent retainer vs. removable retainer.

Removable Retainers

Removable retainers are many people’s first choice because once you get those braces off, usually the last thing you want to think about is getting stuck with another orthodontic appliance in your mouth! Removable retainers can feel like a nice change because they can allow you to freely eat the foods you may have had to avoid while you had braces. They can also make it easier to clean your teeth because there is no need to thread floss or fit dental picks underneath or between any wires or brackets. With a removable retainer, there may also be different colors and designs to choose from, which can be fun.

Most of the disadvantages of a removable retainer also center around the fact that it is removable. It can be great to be able to take it off while eating or before an event, but this also means the possibility of losing it and retainers can be costly to replace. The removability can also mean that it may be forgotten or neglected, giving the teeth more opportunity to shift. If you choose a removable retainer, it’s important to wear it for the full number of hours your orthodontist recommends. This will usually be constantly at first, except during meals or brushing your teeth, but after a while may be reduced to only at night while you sleep.

Another disadvantage of a removable retainer is that it is more noticeable. It may make it a little bit difficult to talk at first because it will cover the roof of your mouth where your tongue forms speech, although most people adjust to it and can speak easily while wearing it after a very short time. It will also be visible while you wear it, with a thin wire across the front of your teeth, although it is less noticeable than braces because there are no fixed brackets.

Permanent Retainers

Permanent or fixed retainers function a lot like braces, but are fitted to the inside of your teeth where your tongue rests against your teeth, instead of the outside of your teeth, so they are not visible when you smile. They are also a lot less bulky and more comfortable than braces because there are no brackets, usually only a small wire attached to the teeth with a special type of dental cement or glue.

Permanent retainers can be great because once they are in, you typically don’t have to think about them! You won’t have to remember to remove them or replace them before and after eating or when sleeping. They are also functionally invisible, compared with a removable retainer. In the long run, they tend to have a better success rate of keeping teeth straight for decades after braces come off, while some patients with removable retainers find themselves needing braces again as an adult.

The disadvantages of permanent retainers is that you may need to be careful with some foods to prevent damage to the appliance. A permanent retainer can also make it a little more difficult to clean your teeth, especially when flossing, similar to braces. This can be an important consideration when determining permanent retainer vs. removable retainer.

What Does an Orthodontist Recommend?

Ultimately, it’s a good idea to talk to your orthodontist about your decision between a permanent retainer vs. removable retainer and ask their recommendations based on the work that was completed with braces and your lifestyle. Many orthodontists recommend a combination of the two, for example a fixed retainer on the lower teeth and a removable one for the upper teeth, and can explain why their recommendation might be the best fit for you. As always, the final decision is up to you, so feel free to ask about all your options.

Call our Cedar Park Dental Office to make an appointment with a dentist who may be able to help you find out more about this topic, and improve your oral health.